Public Affairs: Soap Box - Simon McVicker, chair, CIPR public affairs, and public affairs head, PCG

The Leveson Inquiry into the standards and practices of newspapers roped in lobbying and sought to probe the relationships forged between ministers and media owners with regard to the formation of government policy.

It does, though, seem a remote possibility that the resulting regime of media regulation will include lobbying, as some feared.

Political parties and the institutions of government need a close relationship with the press. Leveson, focusing on behaviour in public life that is in the public interest, was clear that these relationships do not give rise to any legitimate public concern but recognised numerous examples where politicians conducted themselves, whether with editors or owners, in ways that have not served the public interest.

Lobbying, when undertaken in an open, understood and accepted manner, is an essential part of democracy, with an important relationship to freedom of speech. However, everyone involved has a responsibility to act in the public interest, or at least in a way that does not harm it.

Standards in lobbying will remain under scrutiny, regardless of when we get a statutory register. It is time for lobbyists to discuss accountability for professional conduct. I am a member of the CIPR not only for the professional development opportunities, accreditations and networking, but because membership makes me accountable to a code of conduct. This is backed by a disciplinary structure and requires me to deal honestly and fairly with the public. The APPC and PRCA offer similar processes.

The lesson from Leveson is that transparency can no longer be overlooked or lobbying can continue to be cast as a dark act in a sinister world. As the report says: 'The opportunity for transparency is obvious.' The opportunities for lobbyists to demonstrate their accountability to standards of professional conduct are already there.

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